Stage and live audio production

moxman

Silver Member
This could be a whole category by itself.. but one thing I run into all the time is issues with sound engineers and how they capture the sound of your band - some are great and others are well... really frustrating!

The good:
- the sound engineer takes time to get a great stage mix, where the monitor mix is minimal and everyone can hear each other clearly. The front of house is then brought up and adjusted to achieve a great clear room sound

The bad:
- the sound engineer whips through the stage mix, overloads the monitor mix at 'play time' and the sound is distorted on stage - sounds out of phase with sound bouncing around all over the place
.. but apparently out FOH it sounds great. IT just means the playing experience is frustrating as it feels like you are playing on autopilot and hoping everyone is in sync because no one can hear the 'true sound'.

The ugly:
- either a good or bad stage mix is achieved, but the sound engineer who is 100 feet away from the stage takes it upon themselves to tweak the sound to their liking - so in the FOH the bass guitar and bass drum is so loud it is deafening or they add effects onto the snare like a ton of reverb with a noise gate etc. and they continue to tweak the mix through the show likes it's a video game. No one is happy.. arg!

I think part of the problem is that once the show starts, things change acoustically and there is no way to easily communicate with the sound engineer after that.. I suppose having someone with a good set of ears in the crowd act as a go between could help... but on a big stage, big crowd, tons of expensive equipment and gear.. it seems you are always at the mercy of the sound engineer.. and if they like stomach shaking bass or washy reverb (also known as 'mud') - then you are hosed!

So what is the solution to this..
- always use the same sound guy if you have good results, but it's not always possible
- do your own sound, but it's not always possible
- read the riot act to sound engineer before every show
- ?? any other suggestions ??
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I have no clue. Homicide? It's hard to do all that we do, and then when it comes time to do it publicly, we have to go and give up our control to someone else.

Your own sound guy is probably the most attractive situation. It would have to be in the contract probably.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
The answer (for me) was Presonus. With the Studiolive consoles, you control your own monitor with your phone/tablet.

 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Violence or berating just makes things worse. And lots of times you just have to deal with the hand you're dealt. Until you become a big deal and can have your own sound guy handle everything, you're in the situation you're in. I take pride in my sound work I've done over my career here at the magic kingdom and we very rarely have bands complaining all night or walking away thinking it could've been better. We're big on the team concept - it takes all of us to make a show happen. If the band comes in with an attitude thinking they're all that and demanding stuff, then that attitude just goes down the line and everybody's attitude goes south (when in reality, you're here to help us sell tickets and/or food). But I've had a lot of good bands come in, take the time to be professional and work with us on getting good sounds and then the gig is a success and nobody leaves with a headache. Alot of the bands I've handled know playing with us is a big step-up, they're grateful because they know they're gonna go back to playing some club with their own PA system doing their own sound, or like you say, a shoddy venue that doesn't know what its doing. So they're on their best behavior and working harder than normal.

I suggest getting your own PA and doing it yourselves. Then at least you know you guys have control. It might be a good $7K-10K investment, then you guys can learn about what we audio people do for bands when they come in.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Violence or berating just makes things worse.
I agree. There are times when violence and berating are appropriate, and "bad sound" is not one of those times. Reserve it for things like... Getting shocked by mains voltage, or when the sound guy mistakenly fires the other band's pyrotechnics during your show and singes your pubes (Surprise MF'er!!).

I toured for a decade, and only once did we have to walk off stage. There was something in the monitor chain that would swell as volume increased till it got to the point that there was a freight-train worth of cacophony on the stage at 110db. It was absolutely intolerable/unbearable. After 3 songs, we simply excused ourselves for 10 mins and asked the sound guy to kindly sort it out.

Sound guys make mistakes....
 

KEEF

Senior Member
On the rare occasion we have provided pa/sound guy we still use our own desk (QSC Touchmix 16) and simply give them a feed to the speakers. Sometimes the hired sound guy is a bit affronted, but we politely insist. We've been doing it long enough to know what levels/balance works for us.
I also have my monitor control on my phone.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
There are two facets here: monitors, and front of house.

For the band, good monitors are key to a good performance. Having a dedicated monitor person, or the ability for each member to control their mix, is crucial.

Regarding FOH, there's no way for a band onstage to accurately hear what the mix sounds like out front, so a trusted, experienced sound engineer is crucial for the audience's enjoyment.

Basically, unless you have those elements of a gig covered, you're completely at the mercy of whoever is standing behind those boards. Obviously, musical commitment and ability to pay govern whether bands can do this.

Bermuda
 

moxman

Silver Member
Yes all good points....what inspired the rant was a gig for about 15-20K people; top of the line equipment and production.. With a lot of technicians etc. Sound check was great but at game time...We didnt know the engineer but found out after listening to recordings that outfront they were totally messing with our sound.. Next time we'll use our own guy or do it ourselves.. Which is what we usually do. In this case we had no choice... Usualy the sound engineers do a good job..
 

moxman

Silver Member
Just a follow up... when I heard the raw recordings it was just the audio/video from the right side of the stage.. and it sounded unbalanced. The snare level was like a shotgun and the bass at times went through the roof. But hearing the mixed video version changed all that.. adding in the left side audio/video balanced everything out and I have to say it sounds pretty awesome!

I'm used to recording with single Zoom recorders for small venues and the sound is always balanced right out of the gate.. but this was a big venue and the recording devices were far apart.. the videographer had some high end equipment, so I don't know how it was setup - but it worked out!

It wasn't a bad sound engineer.. I was just misled by the sound of hearing one camera source.
So mark this down as a needless rant!
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
We use a Presonus system, and our lead singer mixes from an iPad before we play. Then we tweak as things go along. My wife, who has an excellent ear and isn't afraid to hurt feelings, says what needs to come up and down. Heck, she will walk around a club with the iPad and mix for us sometimes.

I think one thing to do during sound check is to play the way you'll play during a show. I'm the chief of sinners here - back in the day, I'd play one way at soundcheck, and then I'd get really excited when a good crowd showed up and I'd play louder. I do a lot better with it these days, but I'd drive sound guys crazy.

In my experience, the worst is playing benefits because if you have a sound guy and his PA system, if he's not getting paid, he's probably going to do a terrible job. There's one guy (a metal-head since the early 80's) who does benefits around my town from time to time. He's got a monster PA system, and he curses about being there the whole time. He mixes horribly - it's all vocals and lead guitar and his monitor mix is horrendously loud. Oh, and something always, always, ALWAYS breaks. Something always starts farting out. I've even been a part of his paid gigs, and I swear all of his gear sounds like 80's Peavey gear...no matter what kind of gear he's using. I'm thinking his ears are shot.

If there's a sound guy for the house at a place where we play, the FIRST thing I do before I unload any gear is I go meet him. I shake his hand, and I'm super super-friendly and ask him if he needs anything to drink or if there's anything I can do for him. I tell him that I'm looking forward to working with him and tell him to let me know if he needs anything. If I need anything in my monitor mix after setting up, I usually say things like, "Hey [sound guy's name], whenever you get a second can you [my request]. I'm not in any hurry, but when you have a second, it would be great. No rush! Thanks!" Why? Because a sound guy can make or break your sound. If you tick them off, they can (and will) break you during your show on purpose. They will totally jack with your monitor mix, take you out of the PA, or start jacking with the EQ as the performance progresses. Believe me. I've seen it more than once.
 

moxman

Silver Member
If you tick them off, they can (and will) break you during your show on purpose. They will totally jack with your monitor mix, take you out of the PA, or start jacking with the EQ as the performance progresses. Believe me. I've seen it more than once.
It never crosses my mind to tick off the sound guy for that very reason. At one club, we have to use their sound guy who is notoriously grumpy - but I always strike up a friendly conversation with him and never had any issues.
+1 for the Presonus!
 
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